Am I being legally surveilled?
October 27, 2012 6:08 AM   Subscribe

My boss owns the apartment in which I reside. Above the front door is a large and ominous security camera replete with a bank of infrared lights. My comings and goings are recorded and accessible by not only the boss (who was unaware of its existence), but 2 other employees who have no right to watch what I do. Or do they? Can someone answer me: is this scenario legal?
posted by eedele to Law & Government (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If the boss was unaware of its existence I would imagine he would be okay with removing it or restricting its access to himself and you or even just yourself. Have you asked him/her?

That is the problem with the new alarm systems that allow for remote viewing from any computer/smart phone/tablet/etc. Too many people may be able to view it. Always thought they were a bit sketchy for residential use.

I would also see if the username/password is the default. MIght want to change it.
posted by 2manyusernames at 6:16 AM on October 27, 2012

I doubt that there is anything illegal with your landlord (the fact that this person is your boss is pretty much irrelevant to the legality of this) having a security camera on his property. I also doubt that it is illegal for him to allow access to that camera to his own employees (or to the general public, for that matter).

If you're uncomfortable with your boss knowing when you come and go, you might want to move to a property that he doesn't own, unless, of course, he's willing to remove the camera.
posted by HuronBob at 6:21 AM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

Please move out ASAP. Legal or no legal, this is paranoia inducing and unnecessary.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:13 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Please move out ASAP. Legal or no legal, this is paranoia inducing and unnecessary.

Many apartment buildings feature cameras on entrances. While there are privacy implications, it also provides security. I would hesitate to call them unnecessary.

That said, if you'd like your boss to know less about you, you should live someplace he doesn't own.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:21 AM on October 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

So the camera is at the entrance to the front door of the apartment building, rather than trained on your door?

That's legal and quite common. With regards to the employees being able to view it - how do you know they can? Has your boss told you this? How did he know they have access if he didn't know about it?
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:22 AM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where are you? There's no way for us to know about legality without knowing what legal jurisdiction applies.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:30 AM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Legal, common, and not a cause for alarm in my opinion. You know you're being recorded on many streets in the US by the police these days right? Your expectation at privacy ends at your front door.

NOW if this is in fact right above your door INSIDE the apartment building rather than on the street, that is much more disconcerting. Why wouldn't it be over everyone else's door? Is it trained at your interior door? That is bizarre and I think you're within your rights to ask that to stop.

But out on the street it seems like a totally normal security thing.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:32 AM on October 27, 2012

It is wise to distribute risk. Separate your work and your personal life because if a person lives in corporate housing, drives a corporate car, has corporate healthcare, and a corporate retirement plan, everything that gives them power over their life is dependent on one relationship, a relationship that has profit at its center and can end at any time. It is a dangerous way to live, perhaps more dangerous than serfdom as a lord would view your death as a loss, whereas a corporation may not.

I understand your situation is probably a little different, but not that much. Whether the camera's presence is legal or illegal, your life is still out of balance, and not wholly yours.
posted by 517 at 8:03 AM on October 27, 2012 [11 favorites]

This is one of those situations that prompts lots of questions before I'd even begin to be able to understand what the hell is going on here.

For instance: How can your boss not know of the camera's existence?
How long has the camera been there?
Are cameras in front of other apartments in the building?
Is the camera in front of your specific apartment door or just the building?
Is the apartment even in a building?
How do you know it's a functioning camera?
How do you know two other employees have access to the camera's footage?
In what city and state and country are you located?

And most importantly, how and why did you come to live in an apartment owned by your boss and was the camera there before you moved in?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:31 AM on October 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'd be more concerned about whether a security camera is warranted, rather than the fact that it exists. Has there been some act of violence or theft that merits having surveillance on that location? In that case, I would want to know about it. Most folks don't just randomly place security cameras unless there has been a previous problem.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:34 AM on October 27, 2012


As another commenter has pointed out, your privacy ends as soon as you walk out your front door. Sometimes, it ends even if you are inside your home if your window shades are not drawn.

If any member of the public can see the door in question, it is very hard to make the argument that taking pictures or filming the door is somehow violative.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:08 AM on October 27, 2012

I would have concerns with living in an apartment where my boss (and coworkers!) could watch me come and go. I wouldn't want them knowing how often I got in at 2am on week nights, or see who I brought home. Separation of work and play is a good thing.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:18 AM on October 27, 2012

Thanks for the input. I'm a private chef for a family in rural CT. I live above a garage behind the house of the major domo. The major, who has some personality problems, hated the previous chef. Hated the f**k out of her. It seems that he used his influence to get her fired--he claimed that she drank all the cooking wine she bought. There were other things... As yet, he has no truck with me.
Fact: he has access to the video feed (via ipad) as does the boss's personal assistant. I can watch my door on a crestron screen.
Fact: he is malicious.
Fact: he is there to stay.
I thought a quasi legal argument might be the best way to get the dang thing taken down.
posted by eedele at 4:43 PM on October 27, 2012

It sounds like the newest employee at a small company. In short, you don't have any pull and almost no support. The best you could do is get your boss on your side, somehow and then the Major Domo makes your life hell, on a daily basis.

What would I do? I'd go buy a lock and put it on my door. Then, since the boss didn't know the camera was there, I'd assume the Major Domo put it there and proceed to take the camera done myself. If questioned, I'd say that it wasn't in the agreement with my boss. I would take down any other camera that appeared.

I'd be looking for another job while all this was going down.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:01 PM on October 27, 2012

Are the wires on the camera loose? Could they get unplugged or detached by accident? If they did, and you did not say anything to anyone, it would be interesting to see how fast it got fixed. Could be that no one is looking although they have the right to look. (Or ability to look.)
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:41 PM on October 27, 2012

When I thought they might come unglued, I was thinking in the major storm about to hit CT. High winds can easily knock some wires loose.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:42 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I came to offer JohnnyGunn's suggestion. I'll meet you out back.
posted by rokusan at 10:09 PM on October 27, 2012 inanimate object causing you misery and wreaking havoc with your civil and human rights? This sounds like a job for SABOTAGE! (srsly...wire cutters, snip, done. They fix it or put in another? Do it again. Keep doing it. Play dumb.)
posted by sexyrobot at 10:21 PM on October 27, 2012

wire cutters, snip, done

Sounds like a rationale for termination without eligibility for unemployment, if you ask me. IANAL. IANYEL.

I really think this is a matter for a sit-down with the boss on the order of "Is there a reason this camera needs to be there?" If the answer remains yes, then seek other employment.
posted by dhartung at 12:10 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is there a passive-aggressive approach that involves putting up a photo of the scene over the camera? Of course it doesn't work quite the same as in the movies, but it would not cause damage that would invariably be traced back to you.
posted by chrisinseoul at 5:14 AM on October 28, 2012

Or just put duct tape over the lens. No, actually, I think dhartung's idea is more the route I would go. Ask the boss about the camera directly but calmly and make your decisions from there.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:47 AM on October 28, 2012

I think you know it, but you're in a losing position. Anything you do, other than search for a new job, and get out as soon as you can, is a losing move.

I know the economy suck right now, and I am guessing that you are choosing the lesser of two evils by working for this guy, but if you're going to work for him, suck it up, accept the reality of the situation -- that you have no winning moves right now, other than compliance-- and do it with grace.
posted by 517 at 7:23 AM on October 28, 2012

Is the purpose of the camera to watch your door, or is the purpose of the camera to watch the yard for security purposes, and your door just happens to be in the yard? It is in no way unreasonable for someone to have a security system filming the property they own. If they have the money to hire a personal chef, they likely have many other valuable things, some of which may reside in the garage. From their perspective, having the camera to help deter theft or catch a thief is a very smart thing.

If that is the case, than it also has nothing to do with you, meaning they have absolutely no reason to be watching you with the camera. Chances are the thing will be going with no one actively watching it at all for years, unless there happens to be a break in, in which case they will review the footage to see what happens.

I don't understand why people are saying you should cut the wires or take the thing down. If someone came up to your house and started cutting wires or taking things down, you'd call the cops and have them arrested.

If this really concerns you, than talk to your employer about it. Have a calm, adult conversation about it. Honestly, though, if you are living on someone's private property, you may be better off just letting it go, since you are in essence asking them to risk their security for your piece of mind.
posted by markblasco at 7:51 AM on October 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The best course of action - and also the least appealing, and the most easier said than done - would be to just get new employment elsewhere, where you don't have this stressor.

That said, many big private estates have all kinds of surveillance anyhow. If you're going to be someone's private chef and live on their property, then there's only going to be a matter of degree between different living arrangements.

Physically damaging or interfering with the camera would be an EXTREMELY BAD IDEA. If you get caught - which seems pretty likely, especially considering the paranoia of the "major" - then you will probably lose your job, you will lose some important entitlements, you will have that incident appear on your references, you could at least theoretically face legal action, and so on and so forth.

Point being, if the camera bothers you so much that you'd rather just cut the wires, you might as well just bring it up to the boss, and if that goes nowhere, peacefully quit.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:14 AM on October 28, 2012

It's worth repeating, that according to the original post, the boss was unaware of the camera, so the idea that he would be upset by disconnecting it seems a stretch.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:35 PM on October 28, 2012

« Older Grad school endgame   |   Help me find this NFL quote Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.